FREE SPEECH ALIVE AND KICKING, THANKYOUVERYMUCH

I’ve slept on this for the past day or so, and my feelings remain as strong on this as ever, so I’m posting.

I do not like Andrew Bolt.  I’ll be honest about that from the off.  Call it a duty of disclosure if you will, but as most of you would be aware, he was bitch-slapped by the Federal Court Wednesday afternoon and I think it’s about bloody time it happened.

We can now all refer to him officially as a racist, bigoted, hatemonger parading as a journalist.

For Mr Bolt and the Herald-Sun, Judge Mordecai Bromberg’s decision was, as their front page on Thursday screamed, “The Death of Free Speech”

It is the death of “free speech” if by free speech you mean “factually incorrect racially biased rants against people of Indigenous background designed to provoke a reaction in order to sell more newspapers and generate website hits.”

Your opinion of indigenous activists aside, it’s interesting to note a number of points from the case.

When it came to using the court to demonstrate on the record that the people being targeted by Bolt in his article were choosing their identity for political benefit, his legal representatives did not contest in evidence that these individuals had from birth always identified as aboriginal, or indigenous.

I’ll say it again; did NOT contest that the people singled out in his article were, in fact, aboriginal in culture, birth and identity.

Wasn’t that the entire basis of Bolt’s article? Wasn’t he lambasting these people on the public record as opportunists and borderline fraudsters choosing to be white and black when it suited them for either financial or political gain? And yet, in a court of law – and one can only assume, acting on instruction of the client – Bolt’s lawyers did not contest the ancestry and cultural identity of the very people he vilified in his article.

Finally, and what those who have even the most basic understanding of how the media, PR or the court of public opinion works, Judge Bromberg put on record what most have suspected about Bolt all along. The Judge tells it best:

“Mr Bolt is an experienced journalist. He has high-level communication skills. His writing displays a capacity to cleverly craft language to intimate a message. I consider it highly unlikely that in carefully crafting the words utilised by him in the newspaper articles, he did not have an understanding of the meaning likely to be conveyed by those words to the ordinary, reasonable reader.

It’s the difference between a new story that reads: “a postal worker was bitten by a dog in a suburban street yesterday” and “the tranquillity of suburban life was shattered for the residents of (insert street name here) yesterday when a crazed dog unleashed a vicious and furious attack on an unassuming postal worker.”

Bolt’s been in the caper long enough to know which words act as time bombs and which don’t.  Even as I did above a writer or journalist chooses their words for maximum effect. Bolt was factually incorrect in asserting the people he named were choosing to be black and or white when it suited them, he knew it, he ignored it and then used his experience and skill to vilify people solely on the grounds of race.

The exercise of free speech – the “right” of which Bolt’s supporters constantly refer to death of, is an American right by the way, there is no such constitutional protection in Australia – has to be used carefully and with a great deal of judgement.  Respected journalists and reporters exercise it constantly.  Some, such as Mr Bolt, use it as a shield for fear-mongering at best and some truly hateful, vicious and factually incorrect xenophobia at worst. And yes, it’s not just limited to Bolt, Coulter, Beck and Akermann. The Left uses it irresponsibly at times for their own purposes as well.

We’re all entitled to an opinion. It’s when those opinions are factually incorrect and manipulated at the expense of the liberties of others to sell a few newspapers and whip the flat-earth society into a frenzy that we have a problem.

The death of free speech? Andrew Bolt silenced? As Tony Martin said yesterday, Andrew Bolt will tell you all about his denial of free speech and his silencing on his radio shows, his newspaper columns, his blog and Television show.

And you thought I’d be writing about the Grand Finals… HA!

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